Extended isolation has had an impact upon almost everyone. Even those that normally work from home have been impacted. It’s not just social isolation, the impact is compounded by financial risk or loss of employment and income. It is important we keep asking those we meet, R U OK?

The end is in sight, it is getting agonizingly closer. Hopefully by the end of June all culture and arts related businesses, able to reopen, will have done so, or be in the process of doing so. Getting back to work is important, creates employment and the sector needs support through people attending events. For that to occur, those events must be ready to present to an audience.

In the meantime it is critical each individual engaged or connected to the arts sector is looking out for others and looking out for themselves. Surround yourself with positive people. Avoid getting sucked into the negativity of social media. Where you can work on arts projects do so, even if the motivation isn’t there. Don’t forget to tap into resources provided by associations such as The Arts Wellbeing Collective.

Many employees may experience mixed feelings as they return to work. No doubt they will be pleased to be engaged again in creative projects, however they are moving back from an extended period of relaxed controls.

Some will be so pleased to be back that nothing will tip them off course; while others will be wondering whether they want to return to the discipline, and organised chaos of the workplace. Many may have enjoyed working from home and be seeking to continue to do so, at least part time.

Managers have a key role to play as people return to work. It is critical managers display empathy and be aware of the potential conflicts, the social and emotional wellbeing and the mental health impacts upon people.

Not only are people changing again, from working from home to being at work, when they return what they left will no longer be there. Expect some grieving for the past. The space the work within will be different. Social distancing rules will be in place. New cleaning and hygiene regimes will be in place. New ways of doing work will be in place. For some this change may be traumatic.

Be willing and prepared to ask R U Ok? As a manager or team leader, set an example. Be open to talking about your own experiences, be willing to share with others. Most importantly, learn to manage through your eyes and your ears. Observe and listen. Ask question, and listen some more.

Be flexible and adaptable. Work with others to create an environment that works for them. Allow those that need to do so, transfer gradually back into the workplace. Pay special attention to those with fears for their own safety.

Human beings are an adaptable species. No matter how tough it gets, over time we learn to do things differently. Eventually we turn unpleasant experiences into something more enjoyable.

Have patience. It takes time. Try to get everyone over the line with least amount of pain.

By all means cry, however try to laugh twice as often.

John Coxon is founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency working with arts organisations to help them become viable and sustainable through application of The Cycle, a proven model for arts organisations. Shout out to John if you would like help with the transition back to work.

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